Running is funny. Just when you wonder if it still has the capacity to teach you something new, or help you realize something you were missing, it’s there to remind you that yes, it always can. Today was one of those days for me. One of those days when running rewards with its surprise rather than beats down and humbles.
I set a personal record in a 10 mile race today at the Red Shoe Run. I’ve covered the distance in less time, so it’s an odd thing to claim, or might seem hollow, but nonetheless, in a dedicated 10 mile race distance, I’ve never gone fast than today. Perhaps I’ve bettered the time in longer distances thanks to the additional training that has gone into half marathons, as almost every 10 mile race I’ve run has been in winter, at the beginning of training season. But I digress.
I was looking forward to running the Seven Bridges Marathon last October, until a neck injury derailed training in August. Since then, running has been hit or miss. Training has certainly been nonexistent. My mileage dropped from 25-30 miles per week to eight. Or maybe 12 if I was lucky. Winter set in and I let things slide even more. I’ve never trained well in the winter, and if I’m being honest, I’ve been unmotivated since the neck injury. It’s made me hesitant and uncertain. Maybe I wallowed a bit.
With a new year however, I was determined to renew my effort. Until work, a sinus infection, and a neck flare-up sat me on my ass. Winter. It sucks. Rather than train for Mercedes, I decided to delay a bit and set myself up for a strong return to the Tuscaloosa half. In the meantime, there would be a number of races to use for warm up, including Mercedes.
The first was the Adam’s Heart 10k. I’ve run it in the past, actually setting a PR in the distance last year (00:50:58). Though, again, I think it’s not as fast as I’ve run the distance as part of a well-trained half marathon effort. Though I ran without training and with a nagging cough that I’d had for a week or so, I was within a minute or two of my PR (00:52:40). Not shabby I told myself.
Then, just a week later, I toed the line at Red Shoe, this time for 10 miles. Before the race I’d checked the McMillan race calculator, plugging my 10k time from Adam’s Heart into it. In theory, it claimed my projected 10 mile time as 01:28:02 at an 8:48 pace. Interesting I thought. That would be a PR. Maybe I can give it a go, who knows.
I set off, monitoring my watch, maintaining a slightly faster than 8:45 pace. Typically a cardinal sin to start too fast, the first half of Red Shoe is a net downhill, and the second half recovers all that lost elevation. In the last two miles. So I wanted a bit of a buffer. Approaching those last couple of miles however, my average pace was already hovering around 8:45. But, I had a couple of runners nearby who I’d been pacing with for most of the run, and together we managed to stay motivated, and mile nine was one of my faster splits. Around the final turn, up a little hill, and down to the finish line to cross in 01:29:48. My first sub 01:30:00 10-miler. My average pace, 8:47*. Dead on the pace calculator. A pace I would have said I wasn’t capable of just a week or two ago.
Like I said, sometimes running can actually build you up, remind you that you can do things you didn’t think you could do, accomplish all those things, etc. Yeah, this sounds perhaps a bit schmaltzy, but it’s true, even if it’s running a race 5 minutes faster than you expected to be able to run it. Right now though, it’s pretty much exactly what I needed.
*Yes, you are correct, the math doesn’t seem to add up there. That pace should have meant a 01:28:00 finish time, but my watch also measured the distance at 10.24 miles. Apparently, I did not run the turns efficiently.